Dealing with Google Chat blackmail can be deeply distressing and unsettling. If someone is threatening to publish your intimate content or personal information, it is important to know how to respond appropriately and avoid drawing further unwanted attention to the matter.
If someone is blackmailing you on Google Chat, we recommend taking the following steps.
- Document all communications and evidence,
- Secure all your online accounts and social media profiles,
- Contact the relevant platforms to notify them of the attack,
- Monitor your online search results and social mentions,
- Report the blackmailer on Google Chat,
- File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center,
- Reach out to an experienced blackmail attorney, and
- Talk to someone you can trust.
At Minc Law, we have extensive experience helping victims of internet crimes like blackmail, sextortion, and revenge porn, put an end to the abuse. We help take over communications with online perpetrators, remove damaging and intimate content from the internet (if published), and provide non-judgmental, practical solutions to deal with the situation.
In this article, we will walk you through what Google Chat blackmail scams typically look like and provide comprehensive guidance on the actions to take if you find yourself facing blackmail threats on Google Chat and other online platforms.
What Google Chat Blackmail Scams Typically Look Like
Google Chat, one of two applications developed to replace Google Hangouts, is a modern communication tool used for direct messaging, group conversations, and collaborative work. As Google phased out Hangouts in late 2022, users transitioned to using Google Chat as their primary communication platform. Despite its utility, it has unfortunately become a fertile ground for malicious activities, including online blackmail.
What Are the Most Common Google Chat Scams?
While Google Chat scams do not typically originate on the platform itself, it is frequently used as a conduit for carrying out threats and scams that begin elsewhere. Often, users are first contacted on other platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or dating websites, then transition to Google Chat, where the scam unfolds.
Google Chat lacks end-to-end encryption, a security measure that prevents other third parties from accessing a conversation between the sender and recipient. This lack of secure encryption makes it an appealing tool for scammers, blackmailers, and other cyber-criminals.
Here are some common scams that often occur on Google Chat:
Scams Originating on Social Media Websites
A frequent tactic of online blackmailers involves reaching out to potential victims via Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. This is why it is important to exercise caution when an unknown person sends a friend request, even if they have mutual connections, and starts a conversation with sexual undertones.
Once engaged, these scammers will try to persuade their victims to transition to a different platform, such as Google Chat, Skype, or WhatsApp, to exchange photos or videos (often intimate in nature). Here, the victim is manipulated into thinking they are communicating directly with someone interested in a romantic relationship. The truth, however, is quite different: they often are interacting with a pre-recorded video.
In the heat of the moment, this fact often goes unnoticed by the unsuspecting victim, resulting in letting their guard down and sharing intimate media or personal information.
Scams Originating on Dating Apps
Blackmailers frequently use deceptive practices on established dating platforms like Match, Plenty of Fish, and Hinge. They create fake profiles, often portraying attractive individuals, and then express interest in multiple male users on these platforms.
They use flattering messages and suggestive language as bait to engage the users in conversation. Once the scammer gains their victim’s trust, they suggest shifting the conversation to a different platform, such as Google Chat. On this new platform, the conversation will often take a more explicit, sexual tone – setting the stage for potential blackmail.
Romance Scams & Catfishing
Scammers, commonly referred to as “catfishers,” use social media platforms to target potential victims. They create fake accounts, often using stolen images of celebrities or influencers. Using tactics common to romance scammers, they lure their victims into engaging with them online.
As their victims respond favorably to flattering attention, the scammers will find an excuse to take the conversation from the social media platform to a messaging app such as Google Chat.
Once established on the new platform, the scammers communicate daily with their victims, often leading them to develop feelings or believe they are in an online relationship. As trust in the scammer grows, this sets the stage for the scammer to create fake emergencies or dire situations that require money. Believing they are helping someone they care for, the victims comply, sending money to the scammer. Unbeknownst to them, they are falling prey to an elaborate scam designed to drain their bank accounts.
According to data released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), nearly 70,000 people reported being victims of romance scams in 2022. The reported financial losses were a staggering $1.3 billion, with the median loss per victim standing at $4,400.
How Can I Tell If I Am Talking to a Genuine Person or Scammer on Google Chat?
Determining the authenticity of a person on Google Chat can be challenging. However, recognizing certain patterns and behaviors can help you identify potential scammers.
They Seem Too Good to Be True
If you see a profile with attractive pictures and a life story that seems perfect, be cautious. Scammers create and curate fake accounts to trick people. They often use stolen photos and pretend to be successful or attractive. If someone’s profile looks too good to be true, it might be a scam. Always investigate when something does not feel right.
Their Messages Seem to Be Translated From Another Language
A significant number of online blackmailers operate from countries outside the United States, and English is not their primary language. To communicate with their targets, they often use basic translation apps.
If the messages you receive appear translated, scripted, or generally difficult to understand, this may be a warning sign that you may be communicating with someone who is not who they say they are.
Their Messages Are Overtly Sexual or Flirty From the Start
If you notice a swift transition from casual messages to exchanges of a sexual nature, this often signals a malicious or devious intent. Blackmailers aim to deceive you into sharing explicit content, which they can then use as leverage. As such, they typically steer the conversation toward explicit themes at the earliest opportunity.
They Favor Video Apps (Like Google Chat)
Scammers often suggest video calls where they promise to show themselves if you do too. They may use stolen or pre-recorded videos to trick you. After the call, they say they have recorded the video and threaten to send it to your friends and family if you do not pay them a ransom.
Why is Google Chat Popular For Blackmail Scams?
Google Chat is favored by scammers for several reasons. First, they can better create new accounts and profiles on apps like Google Chat and WhatsApp. If they scam people on social media or dating apps, they may be reported, and their fake accounts (which take time and energy to make) could be deleted or banned. But if their Google Chat account is terminated, they can make a new one easily with a new picture, username, and email.
Second, it is difficult to track them down because when creating an account, they do not need to use a phone number that could be traced back to them. Google Chat also does not have active platform monitoring or moderation, which means scammers can operate unchecked and unnoticed.
Is Google Chat Safe to Use With Strangers?
Your safety on Google Chat depends on the precautions you take while using the app. Like anywhere online, there are bad actors, so it is important to approach all interactions with strangers with healthy skepticism and trust your gut feelings.
Do not share your phone number, address, or other personal information with anyone on the app. Do not agree to meet anyone in person that you only know from the chat. Remember, anyone can lie about who they are, how old they are, and what their intentions are.
What to Do If Someone is Blackmailing You on Google Chat
Being blackmailed on any platform, forum, or app can be distressing. However, it is essential to remember that you are not alone. These types of scams happen often, and many people have been in your shoes. Below are actionable steps you can take to deal with blackmail on Google Chat.
What Should You Refrain From Doing If You Are Being Blackmailed on Google Chat?
Understanding what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do when you are being blackmailed. Making key missteps may escalate the situation or provide the scammer with more ammunition. As such, it is crucial to take a step back, take a deep breath, and consider your response.
Avoid Giving in to the Blackmailer’s Demands
You may believe that the best way to make the problem disappear and the abuse end is to pay the ransom. But usually, paying money to the blackmailer does not help and may even make things worse.
Remember, these blackmailers cast a wide net and are looking for responsive targets so that they know where to best expend their energy. If you pay, they might think you are easy to manipulate and keep asking for more.
Even if you meet their demands, there is no guarantee that they will delete any harmful content they have of you. Instead, they may feel more confident to keep demanding money or other favors.
Avoid Engaging With the Blackmailer Further
First and foremost, do not respond to the blackmailer’s threats. Instead, be sure to save any evidence of your chats with them, and do not delete them!
In some cases, blackmailers may send a picture or short video clip along with their threats. Whether it is a photo or a video, it is usually easy to save these messages as proof. Some victims of blackmail might receive a video clip and wonder if the blackmailer has more embarrassing footage of them. This can make them want to engage the blackmailer further, to find out what they know. But the more you talk to the blackmailer, the more this may embolden them.
Even if you are unsure how much the blackmailer knows about you, do not try to talk to them more. Save any and all messages they have sent you and contact a lawyer or the police for help.
Avoid Trying to “Get Ahead of the Story”
When a blackmailer threatens to share embarrassing videos or photos of you, you might want to tell everyone your side of things first. But many times, the blackmailer does not actually follow through on their threats. With the right help, you may be able to solve the situation before anything bad happens. There is a good chance your loved ones might never find out about what is happening if you do not tell them yourself.
However, there may be times when it makes sense to tell people what is happening. Sharing your experience can take away the blackmailer’s power by eliminating their leverage over you. But deciding to share should be a well-thought-out choice, not something you do in the heat of the moment. If you are not sure what to do, it could be good to talk to a lawyer.
What Steps Can You Take If You Are the Target of Google Chat Blackmail?
Handling blackmail can be stressful, but with the right approach, you can navigate this challenge.
Document All Communications & Evidence
Your first thought might be to erase all the messages and pictures the blackmailer has sent. But deleting this proof only makes it more difficult to take action against them. If you want to report this crime to the police, it is important to have evidence of what they have done to you.
Be sure to keep all the messages and any other relevant proof, such as screenshots of the perpetrator’s profile or accounts on separate platforms.
Secure All Online Accounts & Social Media Profiles
Do not make it easy for blackmailers to find personal information they can use against you. Protect your online presence by setting all your social media profiles to private.
Be cautious about accepting friend requests from people you do not know and be suspicious of profiles that are not connected to your usual circle of friends and do not have many posts or pictures.
Contact the Relevant Social Media Apps, Dating Websites, & Other Platforms
Please see our comprehensive resource explaining how to report sextortion on Instagram for more information on social media reporting procedures.
Monitor Your Online Search Results & Social Mentions
If you have been targeted by a blackmailer on one platform, the perpetrator might not stop there. It is important to keep an eye on your online reputation and footprint across different sites. This way, you can quickly identify any subsequent attacks or posts about you and respond accordingly.
Report the Blackmailer on Google Chat
According to guidelines provided by Google, you can report a blackmailer on Google Chat or your Gmail account by following these steps:
- Navigate to Google Chat or your Gmail account.
- On the left side of your screen, under the “Chat” section, hover over the person’s name who you wish to report.
- Click on “More options” and then select “Block & Report.” If you are using a Google Workspace account, you can only block and report people outside of your organization.
- Optionally, to report someone for abusive behavior, tick the box next to “Also report.”
- To complete the process, click “Block.”
File a Complaint With the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)
In addition to alerting Google Chat, it is recommended to file a report with the FBI. They have a specialized unit known as the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) that focuses on investigating cybercrimes.
Once the IC3 receives a complaint, they examine the details and send the case to the relevant federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies. If necessary, they can even forward the details to international police authorities. This also establishes a trail and body of information that IC3 and other agencies may use to more effectively combat future blackmail rings.
For more information on reporting online blackmail, sextortion, and extortion, refer to our detailed guide that explains how to report sextortion.
Reach Out to an Experienced Blackmail Attorney
The legal aspects of online blackmail are complex and varied – with laws differing significantly across states. Some specific state laws may not even explicitly refer to blackmail (or sexual blackmail)
As a common practice, we suggest blocking anyone trying to blackmail or extort you. However, if you are unsure of how to proceed or are in need of objective, actionable advice, reach out to an experienced blackmail attorney or law enforcement. These authorities can provide you with valuable guidance on the most effective way to handle blackmail.
Talk to Someone You Can Trust
Even when it is not feasible or within your budget to hire an attorney, it is important to confide in someone you trust. Numerous resources offer help and advice to those facing blackmail, including:
- Thorn – a helpline with resources specifically designed for child and teen sextortion victims.
- FBI Scams and Safety – a webpage providing answers to frequently asked questions about sextortion.
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – offers a hotline and various resources for victims of sextortion.
For further reading on where to turn for sextortion or blackmail help, please see our resources ‘Where to Turn For Sextortion Help If You Are Being Threatened Online’ and ‘What to Do If Someone is Blackmailing You With Nude Photos’.
How Can I Protect Myself Against Google Chat Blackmail Scams?
In today’s digital world where cyber threats are only increasing, it is crucial to stay safe and secure when interacting with others online, especially on platforms like Google Chat.
Avoid Random Friend Requests on Social Media
Think twice before accepting friend requests from people you do not know well. It may seem fun to grow your online network, but this can invite potential scammers into your online life. By adding strangers, you give them access to your private messages and personal posts, revealing information like your hobbies, friends, and even your location.
All this data can be misused by scammers. So, it is best to keep your online circle limited to people you genuinely know.
Avoid Invitations to Move the Conversation to Different Platforms, Apps, or Devices
While making new social media connections is fun, remember to stay cautious. If a recent online friend urges you to shift the conversation to another app like Google Chat or WhatsApp, this is a red flag. This move can be a ploy to record your interaction, potentially leading to blackmail or sextortion. Always keep your guard up and stick to well-known platforms for communication.
Maximize Your Social Media Security Settings
If your social media profiles are public, you are more exposed to online threats. Scammers can gather quite a bit of information just from your social profiles. Fortunately, many social media sites offer customizable privacy settings.
For example, Instagram lets users decide between a public or private account. While anyone can view a public account, only approved followers can see a private one. Make sure you adjust your settings to maintain your online privacy.
Look Out For Red Flags That Someone is Not Who They Claim to Be
Knowing how to recognize warning signs of phony online profiles can be a big help in protecting yourself online. Scammers and fake profiles often share common characteristics. These include:
- Profiles with a minimal number of friends or few interactions with others,
- A reluctance to show their face or speak on a voice call,
- Using implausible stories to explain why they cannot voice or video chat,
- Asking for money, usually accompanied by incredible reasons why they need your help,
- Quickly steering the conversation toward romantic or sexual topics.
Do Not Disclose Personal Information Too Quickly
One of the primary objectives of a blackmailer is to gather private details they can leverage. To keep yourself safe, ensure all your social media accounts are private and avoid casually disclosing sensitive information in your posts.
Be extra cautious and ensure your posts or communications do not reveal your location, home address, phone number, personal identification, or financial data.
Moreover, if you are communicating with someone you barely know on a social media platform, be mindful of how much personal information you are revealing.
Do Not Share Explicit Content
The risks associated with sexting can be substantial. It is safe to presume that any explicit images, messages, or videos you send over the internet could be misused in the future.
Even if you trust the person you are communicating with, such as a romantic partner, there is no guarantee they will always maintain your privacy. Many cases of revenge porn involve former partners who, after a breakup, decide to violate the victim’s privacy by sharing intimate content.
The most effective way to prevent explicit content from being shared without your approval is simply not to share it at all.
Signing Out When You Are Done Using Google Chat
If you are using Google Chat on a device that others also have access to, like a computer at a library, ensure you sign out of your Google account when you are done. This way, no one else can access your account unintentionally. To do so, click on your profile photo in the top right corner and select “Sign Out.”
If Anyone Bothers or Harasses You on Google Chat, Block Them
If you find someone on Google Chat to be bothersome or uncomfortable to interact with, do not hesitate to block them. This will prevent them from being able to contact you. To block a person, move your mouse over their name, click on the downwards arrow that appears, and then select “Block.”
For further information, please read our comprehensive resource explaining ‘How to Deal With Blackmail’.
When to Seek Legal Help With Google Chat Blackmail
Experiencing blackmail can bring on feelings of fear and desperation. However, remember that you are not alone. A knowledgeable attorney can provide valuable guidance, offering advice relevant to your circumstances.
When Should You Seek Help With Google Chat Blackmail Scams?
If you are facing a blackmail situation on Google Chat, it is crucial to act promptly. Blackmail is both a breach of your privacy and a crime and having the support of a lawyer can be invaluable. They can provide clear, unbiased advice, interact with the blackmailer on your behalf, and help you stop the harassment.
Do not delay seeking legal assistance – the earlier you do it, the better your outcomes are likely to be. There is no need to wait until you have already fallen into the scammer’s trap and sent money.
Remember, help is available around the clock, as many law enforcement agencies operate 24/7. Some law firms, like Minc Law, even offer consultations outside of regular hours for urgent situations. If you find yourself embroiled in a blackmail case, it is strongly advised to contact an internet defamation and blackmail attorney as soon as possible.
How Can Victims of Google Chat Blackmail Find Relief Through Legal Services?
In situations involving blackmail on Google Chat, legal solutions may be limited, but legal advice is absolutely crucial. Lawyers with expertise in these matters can guide you on the most effective strategies for swiftly and efficiently dealing with your case.
These professionals can assist you in identifying anonymous scammers, handle communication with the scammer on your behalf, and remove any content that may have been posted. In addition, many internet defamation and sextortion lawyers provide services to manage your online reputation and monitor the internet for ongoing threats.
Given that many blackmailers operate internationally, bringing them to justice can be a challenge for law enforcement agencies. Also, contacting law enforcement might make a public record of an event you would prefer to keep private. Thus, it could be beneficial to consult with a lawyer before contacting law enforcement, especially if potential illegal actions are involved.
What Should You Look For in a Legal Team That Deals With Google Chat Blackmail?
When selecting a legal team to handle your blackmail case, it is vital they have specific experience with situations like yours. Here are some factors you should consider to narrow down your options:
- Prior success in managing blackmail and extortion cases on social media and dating platforms.
- Openness and honesty – this includes a registered business address, a presence on Google Maps, and clear evidence on their website of their legal legitimacy.
- Positive testimonials which vouch for their expertise and success in their field of law.
- Educational resources on their website offering guidance on effective strategies for handling blackmailers.
Additionally, it is wise to verify the attorney’s ethical record by checking legal databases and bar association websites to ensure they have not faced any allegations of ethical misconduct.
For more assistance finding the right attorney, refer to our list of 33 questions you should ask when hiring an attorney.
We Can Help You With Google Chat Blackmail
At Minc Law, we have extensive experience combating internet blackmail and working to put an end to it quickly and discreetly.
We help take over communications with blackmailers, know how to navigate the ins and outs of various platforms’ reporting procedures to remove embarrassing or damaging content (if posted), and diligently monitor the internet for subsequent attacks.
“I was recently a victim of a predator trying to extort me. I was lost and had not idea what to do till I found Minc Law. Dorian and Anna were amazing, patient and completely understanding of my situation. I followed their expert advice and the problem went away and I fell like a weight has been lifted off my shoulder. I cannot thank Minc Law enough for protecting my reputation. I would recommend Minc Law to anyone in a similar situation. They are simply the best. Thanks you for everything.”
March 10, 2023
If you would like to explore your options for addressing Google Chat blackmail or sextortion, reach out to schedule your initial consultation by calling (216) 373-7706, speaking with a Chat representative, or filling out our online contact form.